Buck Moth

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Black and white moth on screen door
Buck Moth, Hemileuca maia
Metairie, Louisiana

Not a lot of moths up here in the cold Northeast right now (aside from one that flitted through my office at school a couple of weeks ago) but my parents found this one on their screen door in the somewhat warmer Southeast.

A New Host

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

I’ve decided the time has come to move several sites out of my spare bedroom and off this box and onto a shared host somewhere. I probably should have done this years ago, but there’s something nice about having a server you can personally reboot or stick a CD into when necessary. I need to be able to serve three sites:

These sites are not mission critical, but I would like them to stay up. Reliable backups that I can download periodically are a must. I would like them to respond much faster than they do currently. (Xom.nu is pretty fast, but the two blogs can be dog slow at times.)

Traffic is not too heavy, though I don’t track hard numbers. I would like to be able to quickly ramp up to withstand a Digg effect if necessary.

These sites can all live on the same IP address. (They do now.)

I’d like the flexibility to install my own Apache modules and custom PHP extensions and modify the various config files such as httpd.conf and php.ini. Ideally I’d like to be install other frameworks such as Ruby on Rails or eXist if I feel like playing with them. That is, root access to the box would be very helpful, even if it’s virtualized. However I can probably live without that if it raises the price too high. Alternately, I could perhaps live with 24/7 phone support from a reliable sys admin who can make changes like that for me. However the ability to install and manage my own WordPress extensions and modified code is a must.

Any suggestions? So far here’s who I’ve looked at:
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Juno

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

The Golden Compass was sold out at our local movie theater last night, which proved fortuitous since it meant we saw Juno instead. Wonderful movie! By all means, go see it. The dialog was extremely clever, even verging on Whedonesque. The basic story is about 16-year old Juno getting pregnant (after what seemed like her first time, though I don’t think that was definitively established) and then giving the baby up for adoption. I do wonder a little about a girl as intelligent and strong-willed as Juno not figuring out how to use reliable birth control, but I guess that was necessary to get the plot moving.

Of course, the movie had the obligatory, girl-goes-to-abortion-clinic-but-decides-not-to-go-through-with-it-at-the-last-minute scene. Otherwise it mostly avoided clich├ęs. At least it didn’t go with the usual television cop-out of Juno magically discovering she wasn’t pregnant after all.

Still, just once I’d like to see a movie about a teenage girl who gets knocked up, has an abortion, and lives happily ever after, just like thousands of real teenagers do every year. (more…)

#392 White-throated Swift at Shoreline Lake

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

I had a spare afternoon to kill in Silicon Valley today so I headed over to one of my favorite birding destinations in the country, Shoreline Park and Lake in Mountain View. As usual I was not disappointed. On a lazy afternoon in December, without even a scope, I managed 49 species including a life bird!

Brown Pelicans and Ring-billed Gulls on pier
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American Kestrel

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

American Kestrel
American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
Brooklyn, NY
2007-12-15

We found this cute little fellow at the Pennsylvania Ave. Landfill on the Kings County Christmas Bird Count today. I hope to post a fuller report soon. Other raptors included Red-tailed Hawk and Short-eared Owl.

Beowulf in Eye-blurring 3D

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

Beth and I caught Beowulf in Digital 3D this afternoon. Some other reviewers liked this version best, but personally I didn’t think it held a candle to IMAX. I also noticed that by the time the movie was over, my eyes were a little sore. Maybe the experience is better for users who don’t wear glasses. I don’t know.

It was also obvious that as good as digital animation has gotten, it still doesn’t hold a candle to real film. Beowulf was better than Final Fantasy, but still didn’t compare well to movies shot with real actors, even digital effect heavy movies like Star Wars I-III. Even more tellingly, Beowulf didn’t compare all that well to the old Harryhausen films: the monsters are better (Grendel was fabulous) but the humans are so much worse. I wonder how long it will be before we can finally render animatronic humans that are indistinguishable from real humans on the screen?